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Criminal Proceedings vs Impeachment Proceedings

In order to effectively proceed with this case, it is important that we distinguish first the difference
between criminal prosecution and impeachment proceedings. Criminal prosecution is the act
prescribed by law for the apprehension and prosecution of persons accused of any criminal offense
and for their punishment, in case of conviction. It provides or regulates the steps by which one who
has committed a crime is to be prosecuted. On the other hand, impeachment proceedings is a
process of formally charging a serving government official with an impeachable offense. It has been
defined as a national inquest into the conduct of public men. It is a necessary safeguard to ensure that
public officers have the moral fitness and integrity to fulfill their mandate. The provisions on
impeachment are enshrined in Article XI of the 1987 Constitution.

It is undisputed an impeachable officer could only be removed through impeachment process. This is
not to say, however, that an institution of a criminal action may not be filed against an impeachable
officer.

The Court declared in Jarque v. Desierto by Resolution of December 5, 1995.

"The rule that an impeachable officer cannot be criminally prosecuted for the same offenses
which constitute grounds for impeachment presupposes his continuance in office. Hence, the moment
he is no longer in office because of his removal, resignation, or permanent disability, there can be no bar
to his criminal prosecution in the courts. Nor does retirement bar an administrative investigation from
proceeding against the private respondent, given that, as pointed out by the petitioner, the formers
retirement benefits have been placed on hold in view of the provisions of Sections 12 and 13 of the Anti-
Graft and Corrupt Practices Act."

Based on the foregoing jurisprudence, it is clearly manifested that a criminal action may be instituted
against an impeachable officer, however, the same shall be suspended until expiration, resignation, or
removal from office

However, several problems may arise and the immunity granted to these impeacheable officer has its own
drawbacks. For those who say the president is immune from indictment, the argument basically comes
down to the practicalities of governance. A criminal proceeding would prevent the president from
carrying out his or her constitutionally assigned functions as head of the executive branch, effectively
hobbling the government. They say this principle is implicit in the Constitution. The framers implicitly
immunized a sitting president from ordinary criminal prosecution. Furthermore, if the framers of the
Constitution wanted to make impeacheable officers immuned from prosecution while holding their
position, they would have explicitly written that immunity into the text. In addition, another
constitutional principle must be considered that no person, including the impeacheable officers, is above
the law. Finally, as stated in a UST Justice Department memo, prepared in 1974 for Special Prosecutor
Leon Jaworski as part of the grand jury process, a President or other impeachable officers’ guilt in a
criminal matter shouldn’t be left to a “political process” such as impeachment.